As the seventh entry in the episodic Minecraft: Story Mode series, Episode 7: Access Denied has a lot of weight behind its content. At this point in the story, conflicts are coming to their respective heads while the series starts setting itself up for the Episode 8’s climactic ending. Access Denied definitely provides a heavier story line for those who have followed the series from the beginning, but it’s certainly not without its blemishes.
Access Denied focuses on the grand scheme. No longer is it only the Order’s life in danger (or even the lives of an entire town full of people), but the universe as a whole is in trouble this time around. Multiple universes, at that. After a Scooby Doo-esque introduction showing the gang running from portal to portal in the Portal Hallway, strife quickly erupts between friends. Having confronted their personal issues, the group eventually chooses to jump through a portal surrounded by redstone to find themselves stranded in a mesa biome without a portal back.
The Order encounters an unusually strong zombie with a redstone chip implanted in the back of its head early into their journey before stumbling upon Crown Mesa, a desert town full of people and monsters with the same head implant. Exploring this town is one of the few moments where you have complete control over Jesse. It seems like this episode places less control in the player’s hands this time around as it has an intent focus on dialogue and decisions. While the story progression benefits heavily from this, it doesn’t do much for the game’s interactivity outside of cinematics. Trying to walk up some stairs leading inside one of the towns’ buildings will lead players headfirst into an invisible wall, while moments later the group will go running up a set of stairs during a triggered event.
PAMA, an omnipotent supercomputer embedded into the side of a mountain, is the one behind controlling these townspeople and monsters with the redstone chip implants. In her digital mind she’s just trying to maximize peak efficiency to make everyone and anything as “useful” as possible; however, those controlled by her methods become a shell of the person they once were until their redstone chip is removed. PAMA’s plan is to enter each portal found in the Portal Hallway so she can take control of the inhabitants of every universe, ultimately giving PAMA full authority over everything that ever is, ever was, and will be.
Pretty heavy for a game with a childlike aesthetic, but it’s a welcome addition at this point in the series. Everything feels a lot more intense and serious this time around, and multiple instances allude to previous traumatic events that have happened in the series. For the first time, Minecraft: Story Mode begins to come full circle with the happenings of the past and it gets unexpectedly harder to pull yourself away from the screen as Episode 7 nears its end. The series’ continues employing its knack for quality dialogue (and voiceover work) including esoteric references to its source material, and the humorous nature of the game’s presentation in the first episode pervades throughout Access Denied from start to finish. There’s even a sly nod to the VR craze coming to the gaming industry, and Telltale Games goes so far as to incorporate the concept into the game’s very story line and gameplay. This was my favorite, most memorable part of the series to date.
At this point into Minecraft: Story Mode, players should know what to expect. Those looking for fast-paced interactivity should look elsewhere for satisfaction, but action is not a part of the series’ core identity. Judging Access Denied or its precursory episodes for what they are not does a disservice to the game’s intended experience. This is a series that gives you the reigns of a cinematic narrative set in the Minecraft universe, and it does what it set out to do quite well. Improvements to gameplay would definitely be welcome, however, and the inclusion of interesting puzzles introduced in past episodes is sorely missed this time around. Additionally it would be really nice to see what gameplay elements the series already established get some more air time and complexity – crafting, exploring, and puzzle solving are all integrated quite well but only for mere moments each episode.
Those who appreciate a decent narrative will find solace here. The scale of Minecraft: Story Mode‘s story is reaching a startling height, and I personally became far more enraptured by the transpired events found in this episode than in the previous six. Despite its flaws, Episode 7: Access Denied solidifies the series as one of the last legitimate Graphic Adventure titles out there.
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